OXFORD – Officer Katherine Evans of the Oxford Police Department knows a Mayberry mind-set can make people feel more comfortable while actually being more vulnerable.
“People become complacent in places like Oxford because they feel safe,” she said. “But crime happens everywhere, and you can’t let your guard down.”
That is one of the lessons behind OPD’s Women’s Awareness and Response (WAR) self-defense classes. Evans and Capt. Libby Lytle, certified as WAR trainers, will lead the two-stage class for groups of 10 to 20 people.
While it is an upgraded version of the Rape Awareness Defense (RAD) course that was widely taught on college campuses in the past, WAR “is actually for any female population.
“We do it for schools, church groups, work groups,” Lytle said. “We also try to have classes for a hodgepodge of people who don’t necessarily have a group to come with.”
Evans said the two-hour introductory class is more lecture and discussion, but there is some hands-on, combative learning as well. While great care is taken to avoid injuries, she said, “It does get physical.”
Those with physical limitations are not required to participate in the exercises.
“It’s the type of physical exertion that they could do if they had to,” Evans added. “I would love for everybody to get the experience, but any exposure is better than none.”
Much of the emphasis in Women’s Awareness and Response is, as the name implies, paying attention to early signs of possible threat.
“I don’t know that there was a particular incident that told us there was a need for this, but as law enforcement responding to calls, we find too often that situations could have been avoided with better awareness,” Evans said.
The four-hour advanced WAR class involves responding to an attacker dressed in protective gear so students can be truly aggressive in their defensive responses.
Lytle said most class members arrive realizing they have few real tactics to protect themselves in a suddenly violent situation.
“If you don’t have a basis of knowledge to fall back on, you’re likely to freeze up,” she said. “Having some knowledge and some practiced responses gives us a sense of comfort that we can protect ourselves.”
OPD classes for the public are free. The next on-site WAR introductory session is set for March 12. For information on it or on scheduling an off-site class, call (662) 232-2400.